Barriers and motivational factors towards physical activity in COPD - an interview based pilot study

Elisabeth Bomholt Østergaard, Sophia Sajitha Sritharan, Anne Dal Kristiansen, Pernille Maja Thomsen, Anders Løkke

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: In Denmark, few people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) engage in physical activity although it is evident that pulmonary rehabilitation has positive effects on physical activity, dyspnoea, anxiety, fatigue and quality of life.
Objective: The purpose of this pilot study was to explore why people with COPD do not engage in physical activity and to explore motivational factors and barriers towards physical activity. Furthermore, to explore the role general practitioners have in this matter.
Design: We conducted fieldwork among five people with COPD and three general practitioners using qualitative semi-structured interviews. We made a thematic analysis and our analytical perspective was based on The Health Belief Model and Self Determination Theory.
Results: Findings revealed that people with COPD was not active because they did not receive the necessary information from the general practitioners about the benefits of physical activity neither about the negative consequences of an inactive lifestyle. Motivational factors were knowledge about COPD and benefits of physical activity. Experiencing the benefits on their own bodies, feeling that it was not dangerous to feel breathless and being successful coping with breathlessness were motivational. Functional tests like walking tests were very important and motivational for the participants because they outlined the progress achieved during activity and provided evidence of progress that was easy to comprehend compared with spirometry tests.
General practitioners did not inform about the benefits of physical activity because they felt that medication was more important than physical activity and that people with COPD would not be motivated to be active.
Conclusions: The main reason for people with COPD not being physically active in our study was lack of sufficient information from their general practitioners. This study described some barriers, enablers and motivational factors for a physically active lifestyle and the general practitioners’ role in this. Thus, it is important that people with COPD receive early information about physical activity - and it should start with the general practitioners, who are the gate keepers in the health care system. We recommend that lung function test results are never used as a single indicator of disease progression and that more focus should be paid to functional tests like The Shuttle Walking Test or The Six Minute Walking Test.
Further studies to identify barriers to, and facilitators for referral people with COPD to physical activity in daily life from the perspective of Danish general practitioners are required.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberVolume 5, 2018 - Issue 1
JournalEuropean Clinical Respiratory Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1484654
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • health, nutrition and quality of life


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